Morocco: Trekking through the barren land of the Berbers

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    Morocco: Trekking through the barren land of the Berbers

    Lonely hike in the footsteps of the Berber nomads

    Crossing the Djebel Sarhro between N'Kob and Tagdilt is rightly one of the most popular tours in Morocco. Various and very contrasting landscapes are wandered through, one always encounters nomads and Berber villages of Ait Atta.

    The contrast of the barren stone deserts and green oases could hardly be greater.


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    First day: N'Kob - Handour

    From Agdz to N'Kob we drove by Grand Taxi. Once there is properly tidy chill ("relax max!" Would say in Morocco), bread, canned fish and fuel for the fuel stove shopped.

    In the afternoon, after a lot of palaver "where from, where to?" We finally go in the direction of Handour. Now it's time to cross the very wide, dry and flat Dades plain, then gently ascend behind it into the Djebel Sarhro. As far as the plan. Shortly after N'Kob we put in the first break, in the shadow of a stream house. It's hotter than expected, the way is wide, the stomach is empty. We decide to try it in the hostel recommended to us. Once there, we decide after some abruptly short negotiation attempts, but to go further and camp somewhere. 200 dirhams from our remaining 400Dh just for one night is really not in it! 

    We keep on traipsing and are suddenly honed. A minibus! After a little negotiation - again - we climb the miserably rickety vehicle and let us bring the rest of the route to our milestone goal Handour. A good idea, because the track is still neat. A few river bends behind the Dort Handour we open our first camp.

    On a flat and slightly raised rock band on the left side of the Oued (river valley) we set up, leave the tent in the backpack and enjoy a night under the stars. And what a starry sky that was!

    Second day: Handour - Irhazzoun'N'Imlas

    After a sensitive cold night, we pack up quickly and march along the valley. Such oasis valleys are usually also the connecting routes between the villages, so we are making good progress. The path is not always visible as such, but it is clear: further and further down the valley. Some settlements later it gets hotter, especially as we leave the valley and cross the gentle slopes, the sun beats and burns our still white skin with unusual strength. Again and again we come past villages, greet friendly and are greeted friendly. We miss the Hanout (small shop), which according to our guide should be here somewhere. Anyway, our supplies last until the next day. 

    A wide valley fans out, we are now on a wide level. Dust, sand, pebbles, stones, rocks, all surrounded by high cliffs. The environment gets barren. We have to turn right, up the hill to the saddle. From up there the Bab'n'Ali should be seen. The Bab'n'Ali (the Gate of Ali) is the landmark of the Jebel Sarhro, our path leads right past it, and then again to bend to the north.

    Since yesterday we have spent most of our time hiking in green, shady valleys that, with sophisticated irrigation systems, allow agriculture in the middle of the desert landscape. Now we go through a landscape in which only low, tough shrubs thrive. At lunchtime we arrive at the pass, using an obviously popular playground under a huge boulder to rest and eat in the shade. Bread and canned fish - the standard travel food in Morocco: high energy density and relatively low weight. For dessert some dates. In the haze on the horizon we mean to actually recognize the rock formation of Bab'n'Ali.

    In the next village we ask about the Hanout, the girl accompanies us with a smile to a house at the very bottom right of the village. In no time we sit in a cool room on rugs, cushioned with pillows, a low table in front of us, then the obligatory tea and snacks. Bread, olive oil, cream cheese, jam. We chat with the boss of the house, a pretty and still quite young Berber woman, play a little with the two children. Fortunately, we have some pins (stylo) plugged in and for the first time they come as an honor in their honor and are immediately tried extensively and singing.

    At some point it is time to leave, we say goodbye and leave some money for tea and food there (a little secret, because she actually wanted to invite us) and go on, back to the village, then right to the "last house with palm tree" , There it should go again into a narrow valley. On the way there we pass a party: in front of a house a big nomad tent, laughing, singing, clapping. However, we are intercepted and politely further complimented. 

    It gets dark very quickly at this time of year, it is well advised to look for a camp at five o'clock, because at six o'clock it is already dusk. Under palm trees, on a concrete drainage ditch, we build our tent on and cook. We camp right on the connecting path between two villages, which in the course of the evening still provides a topic of conversation between us and the passers-by.

    Day 3: Irhazzoun n'Imlas - Bab'n'Ali - Boilouz

    The way to the Bab'n'Ali runs hot, dusty and rocky, especially on the plateau, on which stands the landmark of Sarhro. Of course we do not really have a good grip on our time schedule, we are on the plateau punctually at lunchtime. The sun burns, every patch of skin that is not protected immediately reddens. The back of the hand and the face we lubricate thick and drag us through the heat. At the foot of the Bab'n'Ali we build a little more shade on a puny boulder with the help of our rucksacks and crouch below. It takes a long time to cool down to operating temperature. Further down the valley are palm trees, even the chuckle of a stream can be heard. Here we rest extensively and eat: bread and canned fish.

    Good morning and strengthened we arrive a little later at the famous Hanout and approve us a Coke, fill our bread and fish supplies (three breads and sardines) and march further down, turn left into a narrow valley and: wow! What a great place! Shady, cool, a chuckle and roar echo from the steep walls. Large pools invite you to linger (we did not dare to bathe). We spend a long time here, enjoying the water, washing and refreshing ourselves.

    Distance bouldering is announced: over large and small boulders, through narrow passages, it goes to the end of the valley. The steep walls lean back, the valley opens. On the piste high above the valley we go easy and fast towards Boilouz. Once there, we look for a while after the described route - 25 minutes after the village, it should go left in a steep zig-zag - and do not find the way. At dusk we set up our tent.

    Fourth day: Boilouz - Igli 

    Also the next morning we do not find the way, lose a lot of time and actually do not really know until noon, whether that's all right. Everyone is afraid, all the way back to Boilouz (or to the place we think he is Boilouz, because the village is not marked on the map) - if we have the return route at all Find. More for gut feeling than knowledge, we walk around this mountain, through this valley over there, climb the hill on the left, cross a wide plateau to suddenly stand before a precipice. Crap. Even as we think, we hear a woman calling from the opposite. Where is she? There is something moving .. Goats! And there, the shepherdess. I mean to see her pointing to the right and calling. So we go right, along the edge of the steep slope and suddenly find a way. Tire tracks? Clearly, a two-wheeler! For bicycle tires way too wide. Well, that's a good sign. Soon we also find the slip, it goes steeply downhill. In the Alps, this would be a challenging hiking trail, T3 determined. And here one is driving around with a motorcycle! 

    A small settlement appears, we literally fly towards it. Someone comes to us, anxious, desperately I ask "Igli?". He grins: "Oui Igli! Fatigue? "Oh yes, we're done. Leached physically by the heat, nervously tense from wandering.

    Under the nomad tent in the courtyard, we spread out, are lovingly supplied with tea and biscuits. When we are halfway through our senses again, we decide to spend the rest of the day here and recharge our batteries. The next few days will be physically exhausting, most of the altitude of the entire tour are still ahead of us and bring us to an altitude of 2500 meters.

    Igli is a real oasis for us, and we enjoy the fullest, even allowing ourselves a hot shower. For this purpose, a boiler with dry bushes and nutshells must be heated behind the house. We even get the leftovers and feel like people in the evening. Impressed by the rock walls of the Tassigdelt Tamajgalt we fall asleep.

    Fifth Day: Igli - Ascent Kouaouch 2592m- Tizi'n Ouarg

    Early, very early we get up - we want to have come far before the midday heat. The ascent up and past the Tassigdelt Tamajgalt is beautiful, again and again you get great views back to the starting point of the tour, and even further to the Djebel Bani. Behind it goes directly to the sandy desert Sahara. It is pleasantly cool, the rock formations are a feast for the eyes. On the way, we even go as geologists and knock on strange stone bubbles, hoping to find beautiful crystals in it. But most of them are filled with dust, some of them have crystals in them, but they're not pretty at all. Still cool.

    At the top of the pass, we first look for water. Some ponds right back, in a narrow gorge, are actually covered with ice. We fill our water tanks, because only in the evening will we come across a well again, in shā'Allāh.

    Somewhat undecided, as we continue now, we decide on one of the paths and go on it. Continuing along increasingly deserted areas, following the narrowing trail of the path, we are getting higher and higher. Suddenly the path stops at Azibs (stone walls to protect the nomad tent as well as a fence).

    Always going north, we climb at the end of the valley, without a track. It can not be that wrong, the direction is right and in a few hours we would have to meet Tizi'n Ouarg. Not yet arrived at the top and already quite out of breath, we accidentally drive out some sheep and discover a figure. This turns out to be when we are finally at the top, as the daughter of a shepherdess. We are all pleased to meet people in this wilderness and exchange a few words.

    With tea and a lot of palaver (and hand sign) we get the way explained, thank you with some pieces of sugar and a liter of water. Turn right around the Jbel Kouaouchafter all, the second highest mountain in the Djebel Sarhro, she said. We circle the block and stand on the edge of a rather deep valley. The path winds down past some houses and up the opposite side. At least three to four hours, we estimate, would take it down, over, and back up to Tizi'N Ouarg. But there we have to go, there is a well there.

    It is afternoon, we already have some altitude in the bones. We decide to take the path to the left around the Kouaouch, as our trekking guide suggests. Quickly we are at the foot of the mountain, and he quickly climbs. In easy climbing, it is only on the slightly lower side summit. From here, the main summit does not look that hard anymore. Twenty minutes later we are up! 2592 meters above sea level. Snow-capped peaks in the north, the seemingly endless Sahara in the south. Following an obvious gully, it goes up in the second degree, down we have followed a slightly more hidden and shady gully.

    While having tea with the shepherdess on the opposite side, the path on the mountain side was still good to see, but now we are looking for. First we follow the valley, which narrows to a gorge. A five-meter-deep steep crash prevents further dismounting. So we go up in Fallinie and actually hit a path again. It is only a few minutes from here and we see Tizi'N Ouard, deep below us. Satisfied, we set up our tent on the small meadow, still filter water from the well, cook our last dinner of the tour and fall asleep.

    Day Six: Tizi'n Ouarg - Tagdilt - Boumalne de Dades

    The next morning's ascent pulls, but two or three hours later we are on a high plateau covered with gnarled, low trees. Quickly we crossed this great, primeval landscape. On the horizon, the M'Goun massif with its snow-capped peaks appears. In front of us the ever-wide Dades valley spreads out. Only the descent and the tour is over!

    But this descent has it all: for hours it goes downhill. The legs hurt, the knees, the feet ... We rest several times, are barked by dogs, keep on traipsing. Until we meet a man with his two sons and a mule, who obviously collected wood in the mountains. We cling to their heels - and barely get behind. As we crawl, sliding and cursing, the three of them saunter down at a considerable pace, laughing and chatting. Finally, finally, at the bottom, we take out the invitation to tea and make our way to Hanout. Apparently, everyone under the age of ten is on their feet to do their jokes with us. The little ones became rude and I became pretty rabid. But the Hanout owner from across the street was a bit more effective and finally threw stones at the kids ...

    A hamlet further we negotiate a minibus just for us, drink a quick tea with the driver and a mountain guide and before we know it, we sit freshly showered on the terrace of an Auberge in the middle of Boumalne de Dades. It took us two smooth days to find our way back to civilization!


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